By Sofonea Shale
Though Lesotho is one of the homogenous societies known in the world, it is also one of the highly divided political societies. The contentions are high on the question whether the congress-national divide is real or artificial but the reality is that for convenience politicians use it to achieve their goals ironical to the genuine needs of the people they claim to be servants of. At this time it may appear that Lesotho is at the cross-roads and Basotho may have to seriously engage on the question on how to get their country back. SADC had earlier found a need to watch Lesotho situation for early response but the question is where SADC Oversight Committee is?
The SADC double Troika decided on the 3rd July 2015 that it will have a team of pathologists to Lesotho and the Commission of Inquiry to the investigate on the circumstances surrounding the death of the former Commander of Lesotho Defence Force. This became so because the Government of the kingdom of Lesotho was put under pressure to either own up or condemn the LDF operation that resulted with the death of Maaparankoe Mahao. The Prime Minister told the nation that his administration found it worthy to request SADC to investigate the matter objectively so that the government itself can know the truth. Though some people did not see value in calling the commission because the operation was the LDF encounter which was also said to have been legal and dully authorised and nothing could be legitimately hidden, others felt that there is no offence if government takes time to be “cork-sure”. In what the nation has been told by the government, the SADC Commission of Inquiry, the Phumaphi Commission, is a SADC response to the request of the Lesotho Government. The legitimate expectation therefore is that the Government would jealously guard at the Commission to find the truth both in process and content. This task the government could approach in two seemingly different yet similar ways. The first would be to ensure that those who give testimony from Lesotho Defence Force are given adequate support so that they are not technically or otherwise coerced through legal procedures and other technicalities. This is important because it is believed to be a fair process if people who go through a legal process are sufficiently protected hence those who may not afford legal representation in some cases are afforded state legal aid. The second way would be for government to ensure that members of Lesotho Defence Force who appear before the Commission fully cooperate and disclose information necessary to help Commission establish truth. Elaborating on the second way, it would be expectation that the Government which seeks so much to know the truth would feel equally betrayed when Phumaphi is deliberately denied information that can help him reveal the truth to SADC. The two ways would certainly ensure that no one is coerced and also that no tactics to hide truth are entertained. This would be a position of a concerned government which seeks truth. Concentrating government support on any of the two to the detriment of the other, would compromise government at least in the eyes of those who took it seriously when it said that it wanted a thorough process to reveal the truth.
It would be counterproductive for government to concentrate on one, in fact seeking to impose the situation on the soldiers in the otherwise fair investigative process would be malicious and unexpected of the government which pronounced itself as seeking to know. It would equally be unfair for government to provide soldiers with legal services that enable them to defeat the purpose of the Commission. The legal services afforded should also ensure that soldiers do not apply their secrecy orientation to upset the national and regional expectation. Doing that would not only be betrayal of the regional body by the Kingdom but an unwise use of state resources. The main challenge in the practicalities of the Commission would be for parties and individuals who would like to be biased and impress the Commission to see their view points as real as opposed to the other side more so on those who subscribe to different political divide consequentially informing their definition of the political-military situation in Lesotho.
The declared intentions of the government would be better served by the government legal counsel ensuring that no one is coerced while at the same time no one is enabled to hide truth to SADC and consequentially to the Government of the Kingdom of Lesotho and by implication the Basotho Nation. Whether the government has taken one side at the expense of another or is on track and maintaining its objectivity of knowing the truth but without an injury to anyone in the process is a matter for Basotho to determine and perhaps not the issue of discussion for this article. What can be said at this stage is that the team of pathologists and the SADC inquiry did not or are not taking place on a clean slate but within a particular identifiable political-military situation in Lesotho whose definition is not immune from the way different political groupings define the demise and rise of the Letsema and Khokanyan’a Phiri Coalition governments respectively. This means that they both have impetus to the future political situation in the Kingdom either for better or worse.
When sitting in Tšoane, the SADC Trouble Troika did not only decide on pathologists and Inquiry but also that Deputy President of South Africa remains SADC Facilitator and that an Oversight Committee will be set-up to watch political stability in the Kingdom and inform the sub-regional body through Early Warning systems and infrastructures of any signs and indicators necessary to address. While the Phumaphi Commission is still in progress, it surely affects just like it is affected by, the political situation in the country whether for better or worse. In that way it already shapes just like it is being shaped by the political situation in the Kingdom. Whatever Phumaphi brings to Lesotho is already in the making and for those who are tasked to read the signs of times and forecast with the intention of enabling SADC to manage political situation in Lesotho should be here as early as yesterday. The question which was earlier asked in this and the sister column in the sister newspaper which is now repeated is when is the SADC Oversight Committee to be established? Is the Oversight Committee going to be set when the political situation would have already matured into a complete complex and then another inquiry would be needed to ask perpetrators what have happened and for them to take their time, skill and art to hide truth? Where is SADC Oversight Committee?